Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/625

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THE following are substantially the conclusions reached by Drs. J. S. Billings, S. Weir Mitchell, and D. H. Bergey regarding the composition of expired air and its effects upon animal life, which are published in the Smithsonian Contributions. These contradictions of certain accepted views are important and likely to give rise to discussion.

There is no peculiar organic matter which is poisonous to animals (excluding man) in the air expired by healthy mice, sparrows, rabbits, guinea-pigs, or men. The injurious effects of such air appeared to be due entirely to the diminution of oxygen or the increase of carbonic acid, or to a combination of these two factors. It is very improbable that the minute quantity of organic matter contained in the air expired from human lungs has any deleterious influence upon men who inhale it in ordinary rooms. In ordinary quiet respiration no bacteria are contained in the expired air. In the act of coughing or sneezing such organisms may be thrown out. The minute quantity of ammonia, or of combined nitrogen, or other oxidizable matters found in the condensed moisture of human breath appears to be largely due to products of the decomposition of organic matter which is constantly going on in the mouth and pharynx. The air in an inhabited room, such as a hospital ward, in which experiments were made, is contaminated from many sources besides the expired air of the occupants, and the most important of these contaminations are in the form of minute particles or dusts. The experiments on the air of the hospital ward showed that in this dust there were micro-organisms, including some of the bacteria which produce inflammation and suppuration, and it is probable that these were the only really dangerous elements in this air. The results of experiments, in which animals were compelled to breathe air vitiated by the products of either their own respiration or by those of other animals, make it improbable that there is any peculiar volatile poisonous matter in the air expired by healthy men and animals other than carbonic acid. The effects of reduction of oxygen and increase of carbonic acid, to a certain degree, appear to be the same in artificial mixtures of these gases as in air in which the change in their proportions has been produced by respiration. An excessively high or low temperature has a decided effect upon the production of asphyxia by diminution of oxygen and increase of carbonic acid. At high temperatures the respiratory centers are affected, where evaporation from the skin and mucous surfaces is checked by the air being saturated with moisture; at low temperatures the consumption of oxygen